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What Should Today’s Executives and Managers Really Be Managing?
As an executive or leader in your organization, you’re managing many things: the company’s image, numerous projects, and a talented group of people. But you’re also managing many other important things, including the perception others have of you and your department, how distracted you and your team are on a daily basis, and many other things you may not even be aware of. For many people, these “other” things are just part of the job, how things have always been done, and the expected stressors of business.
But do they have to be that way?
Let’s start with perception. Why is managing perception important? Because perception is often more important than reality. And in fact, your reality will not be a happy one if you’re not managing perception.
You’ve likely seen many examples of how perception is more important than reality. For example, a stock might be beaten up horribly because of the way people view the company, whether that view of the company is accurate or not. The opposite is true as well. Consider what happened in real estate recently. Home prices went much higher than they should have been because the perception of the home’s value was much higher than reality. This was a major contributing factor to a real estate bubble, which as all bubbles do, burst before everyone’s eyes.
So the point is that perception is something you have to constantly mange. Whose perception? Everyone’s—the C-level executives, the employees, the customer’s customer, and most important, your own.
Therefore, ask yourself, “How do I perceive myself?” Do you perceive yourself as trying to keep up? Trying to protect and defend? Trying to integrate the new?
How you perceive yourself is going to reflect how others perceive you. So you need to perceive yourself and everyone in your department as a major competitive advantage and as a major strategic asset for the organization. As long as that’s how you perceive yourself and your team, that’s how you’ll act, and that’s how others will see you as well.
Plug Into Your Future
Equally important to managing perceptions is managing distractions (a.k.a., change). The fact is that in today’s marketplace, change is coming at us fast…and it’s only getting faster. That means organizations will be facing more problems than ever before.
One thing we know for sure is that most distractions or changes come from the outside in—external factors impact the organization. This causes people to react, crisis manage, and continually put out fires. But to be a strategic asset to your company, you can’t simply be a crisis manager; you also have to become an opportunity manager. The question is, how do you do that? The answer is to become an opportunity manager and plug into the future.
To be an opportunity manager and strategic asset for your organization, distraction is the enemy. To provide major new competitive advantage and to create new products, markets, and services, distraction is the enemy. Unfortunately, we have never been more distracted.
Not only is everyone in your organization distracted, but so is everyone in your competitors’ organizations. But in a way, this is actually good news, because it means there’s a huge competitive advantage in pulling out of that mess of distraction. To do so, though, takes leadership and discipline.
Realize that our distraction level has gotten worse over the years rather than better. Why? It used to be that we had several different realities. We had our home reality with our spouse and children, and we had our work reality with our co-workers. Often the spouse and kids didn’t know what we specifically did at work, and all the people in our work reality didn’t know much detail about our home reality.
We also had our leisure friends, or our personal reality. And we belonged to a club or church group and had that reality. Finally, we had our vacation time reality.
As we went through life, we would go from one reality to the other. This was a good thing psychologically because it allowed us to recharge. Then, when we went from one reality to the other, we were refreshed and mentally sharp.
Today, technology has allowed all those realities to become one reality. But before you blame technology for this merging of realities, realize it’s not technology’s fault. Technology is neither good nor evil. It’s all about how we use it. We have the choice whether to plug in or unplug. Therefore, to reduce the level of distraction in your own life, you need to understand the power of unplugging on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, most people are afraid to unplug, even when they’re on vacation. They believe something might happen, so they have to be always connected to work. But this means they’re never really on vacation, and when they’re home, they’re not really home; they’re always working.
But if your people are always working, how well are they functioning? The answer: not very well. They’re certainly not as creative and innovative as they need to be. And if you’re not unplugging on a regular basis, then you’re not as creative and innovative as you need to be either.
Unplug and Recharge
Unplugging leads to better results in all areas of life. Realize that your mind is always working on a subconscious level to solve your business problems. No matter what you’re doing, your subconscious is at work. Have you ever noticed that your best business ideas tend to come when you’re working on or doing something else, whether walking the dog, woodworking, or playing with your kids? Great ideas often do not occur when you’re in the midst of trying to come up with one. It’s when you’re in one of those other realities that many business issues get solved. However, if you never unplug, you develop something called “blur,” when all the realities blend together and your mind never gets a chance to rest and recharge.
The good news is that you can be a responsible employee or executive and still have a life. But since there are no guidelines on how to do that, you have to create them for yourself, for your team, and for your organization.
First, it’s time to stop thinking in terms of just productivity. While you may think that working all the time means you’re more productive, you have to ask yourself if that’s really the case. Maybe you’re not able to be as creative and innovative as you need to be. Maybe you’re not tapping into the fresh perspective that unplugging yields you.
Next, be disciplined and create strict guidelines for yourself. At a certain time in the evening, close the laptop and turn the phone off. Detail when you’re allowed to work and when you’re not. This may seem extreme at first, but even though we’re adults, we often act like children and need the same rules and guidelines that kids do.
If your kids have an X-Box, a Playstation, a computer with unlimited Internet access, and a Facebook and Twitter account, and if they can use these things whenever they want, they tend to act like the little monkey that keeps pushing the button that gives him food. That’s why parents set rules: “Do your homework before you play.” “Only one hour of TV after school.” “Turn off the computer at 9 p.m.” Because you want well-rounded kids, you encourage certain behaviors and activities. You send your kids to sports and dance lessons, help them learn a new language or how to play an instrument, and make sure they have enough time for rest. You know that your child will not be well-rounded if you let them decide what to do, as they’ll tend to focus on just a few things.
Adults are no different. That’s why you need to come up with your own guidelines in terms of when to plug in and when to unplug.
So is there a time to be thinking strategically, a time to be mapping out that next project, and a time to focus on innovation? Or are you going to get to those things “someday” because you’re constantly checking emails or troubleshooting?
Granted, you may not be able to change everyone else and get them to unplug, but you can start by changing yourself and then grow it outward. Can’t change the world? Then don’t. Can’t change your company? That’s okay. Start with yourself and then bring it to your team. They’ll bring it to their team, who will bring it to their customers, who will bring it to another group. Very soon, you and many others will start realizing the real benefit of taking control of your life, unplugging from work, and harnessing the creativity and innovation you never knew you had.
Your Future Awaits
At the end of the day, being able to manage perceptions and distractions is just as important as being able to manage people and projects. When you focus on managing what’s important, you’ll open yourself up to a whole new world of possibilities. So don’t wait for your future to unfold randomly, only to end up in a place you don’t want to be. Instead, invest the time into yourself and watch your success grow.
DANIEL BURRUS is considered one of the World’s Leading Futurists on Global Trends and Innovation, a top LinkedIn Global INfluencer, and is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous untapped opportunities. He is the author of six books including The New York Times best seller Flash Foresight. Follow Daniel on Twitter and LinkedIn. www.burrus.com
So much for rest in peace.
- Australian scientists found that bodies kept moving for 17 months after being pronounced dead.
- Researchers used photography capture technology in 30-minute intervals every day to capture the movement.
- This study could help better identify time of death.
We're learning more new things about death everyday. Much has been said and theorized about the great divide between life and the Great Beyond. While everyone and every culture has their own philosophies and unique ideas on the subject, we're beginning to learn a lot of new scientific facts about the deceased corporeal form.
An Australian scientist has found that human bodies move for more than a year after being pronounced dead. These findings could have implications for fields as diverse as pathology to criminology.
Dead bodies keep moving
Researcher Alyson Wilson studied and photographed the movements of corpses over a 17 month timeframe. She recently told Agence France Presse about the shocking details of her discovery.
Reportedly, she and her team focused a camera for 17 months at the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER), taking images of a corpse every 30 minutes during the day. For the entire 17 month duration, the corpse continually moved.
"What we found was that the arms were significantly moving, so that arms that started off down beside the body ended up out to the side of the body," Wilson said.
The researchers mostly expected some kind of movement during the very early stages of decomposition, but Wilson further explained that their continual movement completely surprised the team:
"We think the movements relate to the process of decomposition, as the body mummifies and the ligaments dry out."
During one of the studies, arms that had been next to the body eventually ended up akimbo on their side.
The team's subject was one of the bodies stored at the "body farm," which sits on the outskirts of Sydney. (Wilson took a flight every month to check in on the cadaver.)Her findings were recently published in the journal, Forensic Science International: Synergy.
Implications of the study
The researchers believe that understanding these after death movements and decomposition rate could help better estimate the time of death. Police for example could benefit from this as they'd be able to give a timeframe to missing persons and link that up with an unidentified corpse. According to the team:
"Understanding decomposition rates for a human donor in the Australian environment is important for police, forensic anthropologists, and pathologists for the estimation of PMI to assist with the identification of unknown victims, as well as the investigation of criminal activity."
While scientists haven't found any evidence of necromancy. . . the discovery remains a curious new understanding about what happens with the body after we die.
The distances between the stars are so vast that they can make your brain melt. Take for example the Voyager 1 probe, which has been traveling at 35,000 miles per hour for more than 40 years and was the first human object to cross into interstellar space. That sounds wonderful except, at its current speed, it will still take another 40,000 years to cross the typical distance between stars.
Worse still, if you are thinking about interstellar travel, nature provides a hard limit on acceleration and speed. As Einstein showed, it's impossible to accelerate any massive object beyond the speed of light. Since the galaxy is more than 100,000 light-years across, if you are traveling at less than light speed, then most interstellar distances would take more than a human lifetime to cross. If the known laws of physics hold, then it seems a galaxy-spanning human civilization is impossible.
Unless of course you can build a warp drive.
Ah, the warp drive, that darling of science fiction plot devices. So, what about a warp drive? Is that even a really a thing?
Let's start with the "warping" part of a warp drive. Without doubt, Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity ("GR") represents space and time as a 4-dimensional "fabric" that can be stretched and bent and folded. Gravity waves, representing ripples in the fabric of spacetime, have now been directly observed. So, yes spacetime can be warped. The warping part of a warp drive usually means distorting the shape of spacetime so that two distant locations can be brought close together — and you somehow "jump" between them.
This was a basic idea in science fiction long before Star Trek popularized the name "warp drive." But until 1994, it had remained science fiction, meaning there was no science behind it. That year, Miguel Alcubierre wrote down a solution to the basic equations of GR that represented a region that compressed spacetime ahead of it and expanded spacetime behind to create a kind of traveling warp bubble. This was really good news for warp drive fans.
The problems with a warp drive
There were some problems though. Most important was that this "Alcubierre drive" required lots of "exotic matter" or "negative energy" to work. Unfortunately, there's no such thing. These are things theorists dreamed up to stick into the GR equations in order to do cool things like make stable open wormholes or functioning warp drives.
It's also noteworthy that researchers have raised other concerns about an Alcubierre drive — like how it would violate quantum mechanics or how when you arrived at your destination it would destroy everything in front of the ship in an apocalyptic flash of radiation.
Warp drives: A new hope
Credit: Primada / 420366373 via Adobe Stock
Recently, however, there seemed to be good news on the warp drive front with the publication this April of a new paper by Alexey Bobrick and Gianni Martre entitled "Introducing Physical Warp Drives." The good thing about the Bobrick and Martre paper was it was extremely clear about the meaning of a warp drive.
Understanding the equations of GR means understanding what's on either side of the equals sign. On one side, there is the shape of spacetime, and on the other, there is the configuration of matter-energy. The traditional route with these equations is to start with a configuration of matter-energy and see what shape of spacetime it produces. But you can also go the other way around and assume the shape of spacetime you want (like a warp bubble) and determine what kind of configuration of matter-energy you will need (even if that matter-energy is the dream stuff of negative energy).
Warp drives are simpler and much less mysterious objects than the broader literature has suggested.
What Bobrick and Martre did was step back and look at the problem more generally. They showed how all warp drives were composed of three regions: an interior spacetime called the passenger space; a shell of material, with either positive or negative energy, called the warping region; and an outside that, far enough away, looks like normal unwarped spacetime. In this way they could see exactly what was and was not possible for any kind of warp drive. (Watch this lovely explainer by Sabine Hossenfelder for more details). They even showed that you could use good old normal matter to create a warp drive that, while it moved slower than light speed, produced a passenger area where time flowed at a different rate than in the outside spacetime. So even though it was a sub-light speed device, it was still an actual warp drive that could use normal matter.
That was the good news.
The bad news was this clear vision also showed them a real problem with the "drive" part of the Alcubierre drive. First of all, it still needed negative energy to work, so that bummer remains. But worse, Bobrick and Martre reaffirmed a basic understanding of relativity and saw that there was no way to accelerate an Alcubierre drive past light speed. Sure, you could just assume that you started with something moving faster than light, and the Alcubierre drive with its negative energy shell would make sense. But crossing the speed of light barrier was still prohibited.
So, in the end, the Star Trek version of the warp drive is still not a thing. I know this may bum you out if you were hoping to build that version of the Enterprise sometime soon (as I was). But don't be too despondent. The Bobrick and Martre paper really did make headway. As the authors put it in the end:
"One of the main conclusions of our study is that warp drives are simpler and much less mysterious objects than the broader literature has suggested"
That really is progress.
The Black Death wasn't the only plague in the 1300s.
- In a unique study, researchers have determined how many people in medieval England had bunions
- A fashion trend towards pointed toe shoes made the affliction common.
- Even monks got in on the trend, much to their discomfort later in life.
Late Medieval England had its share of problems. The Wars of Roses raged, the Black Death killed off large parts of the population, and passing ruffians could say "Ni" at will to old ladies.
To make matters worse, a first of its kind study published in the International Journal of Paleopathology has demonstrated that much of the population suffered from another plague — a plague of bunions likely caused by a ridiculous medieval fashion trend.
If the shoe fits, it won't cause bunions
The outlines of a leather shoe from the King's Ditch, Cambridge. It is easy to see how these shoes might be constricting. Copyright Cambridge Archaeological Unit.
The bunion, known to medicine as "hallux valgus," is a deformity of the joint connecting the big toe to the rest of the foot. It is painful and can cause other issues including poor balance. The condition is associated with having worn constrictive shoes for a long period of time as well as genetic factors. Today, it is often caused by wearing high heeled shoes.
The medieval English didn't care for high heeled shoes as much as modern fashionistas, but there was a major fashion trend toward shoes with long, pointed toes called "poulaines" or "crakows" for their supposed place of origin, Krakow, Poland.
This trend, already silly-looking to a modern observer, got out of hand in a hurry. According to some records, the points on nobleman's shoes could be so long as to require tying them to the leg with string so the wearer could walk. At one point, King Edward IV had to ban commoners from wearing points longer than two inches. A couple years later, he saw fit to ban the shoes altogether.
But, just knowing that people back in the day made poor fashion choices doesn't prove they suffered for it. That is where digging up old skeletons to look at their feet comes in.
Beauty is pain: the price of high medieval fashion
To learn how bad the bunion epidemic was, the researchers looked to four burial sites in and around Cambridge. One was a rural cemetery where poor peasants were buried. Another was the All Saints by the Castle parish, which had a mixed collection of people that tended toward poverty. The Hospital of St. John's burial ground contained both the poor charges of a charity hospital and wealthy benefactors. Lastly, they considered the cemetery of a local Augustinian friary, home to monks and well-to-do philanthropists.
The team considered 177 adult skeletons that were at least a quarter complete and still had enough of their feet to make studying them possible. The remains were classified by age and sex by observation and DNA testing. Each was examined for evidence of bunions and signs of complications from the condition, such as falling.
Those buried in the monastery's graveyard were the most affected. Nearly half, 43 percent, of the remains found there had bunions. This includes five of the eleven members of the clergy they found. Twenty-three percent of those laid to rest at the Hospital of St. John had bunions, though only 10 percent of those at the All Saints by the Castle parish graveyard did.
The rural cemetery had a much lower rate of instances, only three percent, suggesting that these peasants were able to avoid at least one plague.
Overall, eighteen percent of the individuals examined had bunions, with men more likely to have them than women. Those at cemeteries known for exclusivity were more likely to have them as well, though it is clear that the condition also affected members of other classes. This makes sense, as it is known that these shoes had mass appeal.
The authors note that the rural cemetery having fewer cases is partly because that cemetery "went out of use prior to the wide adoption of pointed shoes, and it is likely that those residing in the parish predominately wore soft leather shoes, or possibly went barefoot."
Those skeletons with evidence of bunions were more likely to have fractures indicative of a fall. This was more common on those estimated or recorded as having lived past age 45.
In our much more enlightened times, 23 percent of the population currently endures having bunions, most of them women, and one of the leading culprits behind this is the high heeled shoe.
Some things never change.